With only twenty minutes left to her shift, Isabelle Alvarez turned an experienced eye to the number of people standing on her checkout line and how many items each had in their shopping cart. The thirty-two-year-old had worked at the Stop ‘N’ Save long enough to be able to judge how long it would take to handle each customer and decided that the young mother with the two toddlers in tow at the end of the line would just about finish her for the day.
Handing the customer she had just finished with her change and receipt, Isabelle paused before starting on the next one just long enough to switch off the open light on her lane. The robust redhead knew that turning the light off before the end of your shift ticked off the kid who was now assistant manager, but he would just have to get over it. As long as she still had a customer on line when five o’clock rolled round, there was little he could say about it.
Sure enough, her timing was again perfect as the second hand of the large analog clock on the wall had just swept past the hour as she handed the young mother her receipt. Isabelle was always happy when the day was over, especially on a Friday with the promise of the weekend to come. And promise it was because she planned to spend it with someone who had become quite special to her.
It only took a few minutes to close out her drawer, after six years she could probably do it in her sleep, and she quickly carried her cash drawer over to the service desk. Patricia Brown, one of the head cashiers working the desk, took the drawer from her and began to check her tally.
“Big plans for the weekend?” the older woman asked as she added up the coupons and checks that had been in the drawer.
“What makes you say that?” Isabelle replied, her tone perhaps a bit too defensive.
“Just the way you sped through close out,” the black woman answered. “It made me think you were in a hurry to check out, that’s all.”
“Oh,” Isabelle said, realizing she had overreacted.
“You and Perry going down to the shore again?” Patricia inquired as she started counting the remaining cash. “It might be a little too cool for swimming, but then that probably won’t make a difference to the two of you.” She added with a knowing smile.
Since just about everyone in the store knew that she had been dating Perry Wagner, who drove one of the delivery trucks, over the summer, the question was understandable. What wasn’t common knowledge was that she and Perry had come to a parting of the ways over a month before.
Their relationship had started off well enough, quickly progressing from shared coffee breaks to lunch together and then out to dinner on an actual date. Perry was careful to do and say all the right things, treating her like a lady wanted to be treated.
If anyone asked, and in a store as small as this where everyone knew everyone else’s business, Isabelle could honestly say she hadn’t slept with Perry until after they had been going out over a month. What she didn’t need to say was that long before that, the goodnight kiss had been replaced by the goodnight blow job. She knew how to keep a man interested while she made up her mind about him.
Isabelle was hardly shy about sex, having lost her virginity to a high school classmate when she was sixteen. Not the most attractive of girls back then, she tended to be on the stocky side. Isabelle made the same mistake a lot of girls did and found popularity by letting it get out that she put out. What she only later came to understand was that, while a guy was perfectly willing to take her out and have a good time; few envisioned anything more than that with her. She wasn’t, as the old saying went, the kind of girl you brought home to meet your mother.
Her love life, or more precisely her sex life since the occasions where love might have entered the picture were few and far between, seemed to follow a familiar pattern. After a while, despite hopes to the contrary, her relationship with Perry proved no different.
At first, it was dinner and a movie, then back to her place for a rumble in the sheets. After a while, it was just dinner and off to bed, until finally she was lucky if they got takeout before their Friday night fuck. As nice as the sex was and continued to be, she was long past the age where she wanted to be just some guy’s fuck-buddy.
“I’m not seeing Perry anymore,” Isabelle said, deciding that she might as well finally get that out there.
“Oh,” Patricia said, more than a touch of curiosity in her voice. “Is there someone new?”
“I guess you could say that,” Isabelle offered.
“Anyone we know?” Patricia further asked, her curiosity aroused.
“I doubt it,” Isabelle replied, the brevity of her answer saying more than the words.
“Do we at least get a name,” Patricia asked, as if it was everyone’s right to know, “in case he calls the office looking for you.”
“You’re not likely to get any calls like that,” Isabelle replied, “but if you have to have a name, let’s just make it Jamie.”
“Just Jamie,” Isabelle repeated, knowing full well that the white haired woman was mentally running though her almost encyclopedic knowledge of everyone in town to see if she could come up with a Jamie.
“You can’t give me something else to go on?” Patricia said as the look on her face said she couldn’t come up with a match.
“I think I’d rather just keep it private for now,” Isabelle answered, disappointing the senior cashier, “at least until I see where it goes.”
“Oh I understand,” Patricia said, the reluctance in her voice saying just the opposite. “Well it looks like everything balances,” she added as she handed the younger woman a receipt. “Have a good time with Jamie and good luck.”
Isabelle thanked her and after clocking out, slipped into the jacket she had left on the coat rack. Glancing back over her shoulder as she zipped up, she saw that Patricia had already gone back to what she’d been doing before. Nice as she was most of the time, Patricia had a long standing reputation as being one of the worst gossips in town. The juicier the secret, the more she was incapable of keeping it to herself, regardless of what damage it might cause.
A recent example, still fresh on Isabelle’s mind, was the store’s Memorial Day picnic over by Blue Valley Lake. Judy Myers, who had worked in produce even longer than Isabelle had been at the store, had a little too much to drink. Actually, since she was quite unaccustomed to drinking in general, that little had an effect all out of proportion to the amount.
So much so that the tipsy twenty-six year-old had let her most secret urges take control and wound up with nineteen-year-old Jeffery Winters in the boat house while just about everyone else had sat down to eat. When Ira Kennedy, who had gone to the boat house to look for her sunglasses which she had dropped somewhere, came upon them, they were both in a highly disorganized state, at least clothes wise. Even more shocking was the fact that Judy was down on her knees performing a highly erotic act on the stock boy.
That both were unattached and of legal age never entered Patricia’s thoughts once she was told what happened by her good friend Ira. It didn’t even take till the end of the day for everyone she could corner to learn of the indiscretion. While most of them found the news titillating, the majority also felt it was Judy’s business and that Patricia had been wrong to spread it. Despite that, Judy felt totally humiliated and not only did she never come back to work after that day, she moved out of town a month later. Yet even after that, Patricia couldn’t break her lifelong habit.
Walking to her old Escort on the far end of the parking lot, Isabelle considered that Patricia was probably already telling people that she and Perry had broken up and that Isabelle was already seeing someone new. Imagine the field day Patricia would have, Isabelle thought as she slid into the front seat, if she knew that her companion for the weekend was not only ten years her junior, but also another woman.
If anyone had suggested to her, only a year before, that she and someone like Jamie Delgado could find enough in common to be friends, much less becoming intimately involved, Isabelle might’ve wondered what they were on. To anyone who knew them, it would’ve been hard to imagine two more dissimilar women.
Isabelle was ten years older, twenty-eight pounds overweight and seemingly doomed to never having a long term relationship. True, she had actually been engaged when she was twenty-six, but that lasted less than a month. In a rare flash of clarity back then, Isabelle had realized that the only reason she had said yes was the fact that Manuel Lopez had been the only one who ever asked. His reasons for doing so were simple enough, he was twenty years older and desperately wanted a son and heir. Not content to become just a broodmare, she had broken the engagement.
Jamie, on the other hand, was only a year out of college and almost a fanatic about physical fitness, going so far as to have been on several teams in both high school and college. She had also been in a totally monogamous relationship for over three years.
.... There is more of this story ...